Oregon has hired a new Chief of Education to oversee all k-12 schools and community colleges. I was curious as to who this person is so I ordered his book, Only Connect. My guess is that we have a 50-50 chance of getting our moneys worth from him. If I had to bet money, it would be on the side that he leaves within 2 years and takes a handsome settlement with him. Our system would frustrate the crap out of him and he would leave in the middle of changes that haven't been finished so our costs would be even higher. This has happened before with Goldschmidt, a newly minted child molester, leaving our higher education board in the middle of changes.
From the book I've gleamed some good things and bad.
1. This is a good, honest man. He grew up *exactly* how I want my leaders. He understands the poor but he is firm. He understands race as he is African-American. He understands business as that is his background. He has integrity as his father carefully developed these aspects. He is super smart and doesn't shy from big problems. I can't say enough about him. I truly believe this man is great.
Whoo-be-gone! Garrison certainly peeved off (obviously) a bunch of teachers. Whoooeee! Of the first 30 or so responses (letters), not one respondent actually responded to what he wrote. See, we really do need Reading First - but let's start with using it on the teachers. Garrison wrote that although NCLB has flaws - Reading First is the best part of it. Reading First actually works!
But then teachers respond with:
The NCLB test is horrible, long, requires memorization, requires teaching to the test, etc. etc etc.
Really? There is one single NCLB test? Wow, I didn't know that. I thought that each state makes its own test. So whose fault is it?
I saw one lady that posted saying balanced literacy is phonics. Hold on, I have to stop laughing.
OK, I'm back. She is clearly an idiot. Balanced literacy is an outcropping of Whole Language. See, she also needs to go back and learn to read history.
The white paper outlines programs used in Oregon public schools to help 4th through 12th graders that are not reading at grade level. That can be anything from completely illiterate to simply a very slow reader. As you can imagine, a slow reader above 4th grade is a huge disadvantage as by that time kids are expected to read to learn. The learning to read should be done by 3rd grade. Just a side note - many poor urban school are able to get their kids to read by kindergarten.
Anyhow, article gives some interesting statistics:
Some Oregon high schools are adopting Mexico's public school curriculum to help educate Spanish-speaking students with textbooks, an online Web site, DVDs and CDs provided free by Mexico to teach math, science and even U.S. history.
I found a series of http://youtube.com video posts by nowthatshockey that show testimony of parents and concerned citizens against constructivist/discovery method math curriculum such as TERC math and Everyday Math. Some of it is very compelling testimony.
In the following video, a series of parents speak out at a local school board meeting against the curriculum, Investigations in Number, Data, & Space (aka TERC):
Olympia, WA is undergoing a math curriculum review. The local paper published these letters from parents, commenting on the school district plans. This is starting to happen in Oregon with a group of parents in Beaverton fighting the curriculum in their city. Please remember, this is a statewide issue, not just a Beaverton city issue. Our state standards AND testing is aligned for non-traditional math curriculum using language and multiple methods of arriving at an answer instead of standard formulas and correct answers.
Story about Olympia planning to use Connected Math LINK
Traverse City, MI - population 14,000+ is fighting a battle in the math wars. The group calls themselves "We All Count" - and they want traditional math courses back. In the early 1990s, TCAPS started phasing out traditional math courses in favor of a reformed math curriculum.
The move drew a slew of complaints from parents who argued that reformed math shortchanged basic skills and left many students needing remedial math classes at the college level:
Saxon Math is unfashionable in the educational bureaucracy. It is structured — even a bit rigid. One lesson leads to the next. Each ends with a list of problems, and all of them demand the right answer. It's so ... linear.
I like the article linked below because it states clearly what someone considers serious issues with the No Child Left Behind federal law (NCLB). Most of it I agree with. Notice the person doesn't blame the parents (although there is blame there) or other things out of the control of the school system.
I'm not sure about the special ed part. I can go with the no sanctions if the students don't make progress with their peers but they bloody hell should be tested against peers to see if they are catching up or actually regressing. At least parents should know. All the "developmentally appropriate" testing can actually mask teaching and curriculum problems and I don't see how that is going to help ALL special ed kids, especially the many that can catch up with their grade appropriate peers.
Firstly, the article brings to light the thoughts of the Montana superintendent:
"I would like to see someone who has the guts to say, 'Let's take one thing. Let's make sure our students can do it before we go on to the next,'" she said.
Basically, the author points to the differences in the two approaches to teaching math.
The reformers, representing the education establishment, believe learning "process" is more important than memorizing core knowledge. They see self-discovery as more important than getting the right answer. For them it's the journey, not the destination.